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Solidarity and Care

Since the 1980s comparative research on the structures of the welfare state in Britain and Germany has been a focal point of the Institute’s work on the development of industrial society in the two countries. The present research projects in the research group Solidarity and Care link up with this tradition, but extend it in terms of both chronology and content. More recent research in this field concentrates less on the legal and institutional development of the modern welfare state than on the practice of state and non-state actors, the experience of poverty and dependence, and the types of social control associated with social inclusion and support. Under the title Solidarity and Care the projects in this research group examine various forms or models of support: care stands for more paternalistic aid structures, while solidarity implies greater horizontal integration. Within this group of research projects there is also particular interest in recent theoretical debates on topics such as social control, care, and the history of emotions. The group engages actively with debates and methodologies in the field of conceptual and discourse history. However, research perspectives are always geared towards examining, alongside the concepts, the social practices and institutions in which they occur. Current research activities can be grouped into the following major blocs of topics:

1. Concepts and Ideas

The research projects concentrate particularly on changes in the legitimation of aid, concepts of human dignity, and the religious or secular driving forces behind charitable or philanthropic activity. For research see project conferences and publications:

Conferences, Publications, Papers


2. Care for Poor and Orphaned Children and the Sick

The focus is on the significance of natural and social relationships for the care of especially vulnerable people. The questions addressed range from adoption as a form of social inclusion to the importance of family networks amongst the poor and family solidarity in the nobility (project complete).

Conferences, Publications, Papers


3. Poverty, Dependence and Aid from the Point of View of the Poor

Most prominent here is the DFG/AHRC project for assessing applications for support and similar sources as autobiographical documents of the poor. In various sub-projects such aspects as changes in the way claims for support are justified and descriptions of poor people’s social relations and networks are analysed.

Research Project

Pauper Letters and Petitions for Poor Relief in Germany and Great Britain, 1770 – 1914
(Prof Andreas Gestrich and Prof Steven King)

Affiliated Project

International Research Academy on the History of Global Humanitarianism
(this link will take you to the Global Humanitarianism Research Academy website).

Past and Completed Projects

History of Child Adoption in Europe
(Benedikt Stuchtey, now at Philipps Universität Marburg)

The research area Solidarity and Care had strong links with the completed (2012) DFG-Collaborative Research Centre 600 Strangers and Poor People. Changing Patterns of Inclusion and Exclusion from Classical Antiquity to the Present Day at the University of Trier. Prof. Gestrich was (since 2008 in cooperation with Prof. Raphael) director of the research project B4: Poverty and Welfare Politics in European Cities in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. For more information see the project website (this link will take you to the Trier University website).

The research area Solidarity and Care also collaborated with project I.04 The Importance of Family Ties and Clientelism for Rural Credit Markets in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Württemberg of the joint Research Cluster of the universities of Mainz and Trier on Social Dependencies and Social Networks. For more information see the project website and the full project bibliography (these links will take you to the Trier University website).

Related Projects of Scholarship Holders